As a lifestyle coach, trainer and speaker all rolled into one, I speak many times a week to the extent that I have long exorcised the ghosts of stage fright. To me, I love the stage and I love crowds. The more, the merrier. So when I was told it would be a full-house crowd today, I was pleased. Very pleased indeed. And boy, you should have seen how packed the LT at Ngee Ann Polytechnic was this afternoon.

Every seat in the 150 seater LT was taken and some students who came late had to contend to sit on the steps. Little wonder in the feedback forms after the talk, one wrote “we want seats, more seats, we want seats to sit on.”

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Welcome to “The Art of Conversation” – a special talk I created for Ngee Ann Polytechnic students at the request of the Student Affairs Office. Part Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), part rapport building, part conversation chemistry between males and females; it was the accumulation of the essence of three of my programmes. 
 
I saw the students taking notes religiously which I thought was the norm. Little did I know until I was told thereafter by the liaison staff that that there was an unusual sight for all talks organized for them. In fact, it’s one of the very rare talks whereby students were seen scribbling. For other talks, they just sat back and listened. And, the students did the exercises Well, perhaps that’s why my talks are always different from the others out there. 

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In a practical talk filled with laughter, smiles and joy, I pride myself as being able to give value to the students. Having been a student once, I fully understand how youths think and their needs. Coming from a HR background enables me to put my years of experience to the best use and share how they should sell themselves in front of the interviewers. 
 
Wanting to start a conversation is not difficult. What’s more difficult to do is to sustain the conversation and make the person become more interested in what you have to say or offer. That in essence is the art of conversation. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? And what impression do you want your listeners to form in their minds?
 
Some may think that as long as they know how to impress visually, that’s enough. But then, like I always say, why impress at only 55% when you can impress totally? Personally, I seek to impress 100% each time and every time.
 
In this age and time, mindshare is equally important. Words can be interpreted in so many ways so unless we get the nuance right, it may sound arrogant. It’s a very thin line between confidence and arrogance actually like what I shared this afternoon really. But now that everyone has upped their verbal intelligence, they know they are in a better stead when communicating with others. Let the conversation begin :)

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From the moment I stepped in, I knew it would not be just another corporate grooming talk I was going to do. To me, this talk holds special meaning to me. I call it the homecoming grooming talk.

Being invited back to one’s alma mater ranks high on most people’s wish list. Similarly, it’s always been my dream to be invited back to my alma mater, the National University of Singapore (NUS). Years ago, I was an undergraduate, just like the sea of other undergraduates. Years later, I am a lifestyle coach, helping others with their fitness and grooming challenges.

How quickly time passes. But one thing will always remain – the generally still familiar surroundings (despite NUS expanding and adding new buildings) and the fond undergraduate memories. This is despite my talk being held at the University Hall which is a new building.
 
Besides it being a homecoming of sorts, what also excites me is the fact that the talk will be videoed.  In other words, if you didn’t manage to watch me speak live, you can still watch it streamed live on the staff intranet. Cool, isn’t it? How advanced technology has come :)

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Speaking in front of a mixed gender audience is always a challenge as it means devoting enough airtime to both the males and females, without each gender feeling bored. Targeted at the NUS staff coming from the various schools, faculties and departments, I decided against using the rostrum which was prepared and opted instead for a portable mike of sorts to be more mobile. This allowed me to interact with the audience better. 
 
From my interactions with the staff, many felt they were torn between the two opposites of balancing practicality with style. On the one end, they want to feel comfortable as having to walk from one end of campus to the other is no small joke, considering NUS is after all built on a ridge. On the other hand, they want to look good and not be viewed as underdressed by their bosses. This was the constant issue brought up. 
 
Having walked from one end of campus to the other, I definitely can identify with this sentiment. Wearing something comfortable would be paramount as walking on stilettos would instantly be a killer. 
 
There has been much comment in the press about undergraduates (both varsity and polytechnic students) being grossly underdressed while on campus. They wear flip-flops and do not think twice about coming in their singlets, shorts and unkempt hair. If we cannot condone the dressing of the students, what more about the staff, right?
 
In the same vein, one doesn’t have to wear power suits to campus. All one needs is a shirt and pants (for the men) and shirt/blouse and pants/skirt (for the ladies). For the ladies, consider wearing kitten heels, Mary Janes or wedges (if you want the height advantage).
 
As I always share, dressing it right is not difficult. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and individuality. Talk to me if you need help.

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